Solon blames offline gov’t websites for ‘mis-suspension’ of classes

A party-list lawmaker has criticized the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) for the offline government websites that contributed to the confusion brought about by the “mis-suspension” of classes on Monday, July 9.

1-Ang Edukasyon party-list representative Salvador B. Belaro Jr. said in a statement that scores of government websites, including the Official Gazette and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), had been offline for a week, although some are back online.

Belaro noted that while the DICT has cited hardware or server problems at the government’s data center in Makati, the agency did not elaborate the kind of problems and details of the hardware issues.

“I will give the DICT the courtesy of until this weekend to explain in public and in detail what happened. If by Monday, the country is still in the dark as to what happened to our government websites, then they will hear from us again,” he said.

“They also better start preparing for a possible congressional investigation or for intense scrutiny of their 2019 budget,” he threatened.

The lawmaker said it was ironic that the shutdown of the websites affected the registration of participants for National Science and Technology Week from July 17 to 21. “Were it not for the DOST’s Facebook accounts and pages, the public would not know anything about NSTW 2018,” Belaro said.

Belaro also noted that some mayors and governors chose to suspend classes without enough facts and evidence to support their decisions. “All they had to do what ask PAGASA directly. There is always someone at PAGASA 24 hours. They could have also checked the new and old PAGASA websites,” he said.

He added: “As I said last month, the new PAGASA website needs some explaining because a lot of the information on it are in terms ordinary, non-science Filipinos cannot understand or even relate to.”

Belaro said there was “a failure of relevant communication” from the government agencies to the LGU officials and the public. “This is not the first time miscommunication has occurred between the science community and the general public here in the Philippines. Hopefully, there will be less in the months and years ahead,” he said.

Considering it will be National Science and Technology Week (NSTW) next week, Belaro said the weather lessons of July 9 are relevant to the country’s efforts to venture further into the space sciences, planetary systems and ecosystems, and the establishment of a Philippine Space Agency.

The second microsatellite of the Philippines, dubbed Diwata 2, is due for launch any time now. Diwata 2 is a 50-kilogram cube of jampacked instruments and circuitry designed to determine the extent of damage from disasters, monitor natural and cultural heritage sites, keep track of changes in vegetation, and observe cloud patterns and weather disturbances.

It also has an amateur radio unit meant to promote awareness and interest in amateur radios and satellite technology, and to provide an alternative means of communication in times of disasters and emergencies.

Diwata 2 and Diwata 1 are parts of the PHL-MICROSAT Program to bring together the Philippines’ capabilities on designing and building satellites as a prelude to the creation of the country’s own Space Agency. The program is run at the University of the Philippines in Diliman.

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